New Town: address not found

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By TATHAGATA RAY CHOWDHURY
  • Published 8.04.11
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Software professional Sumit Mondal found his dream home in New Town, only to lose his postal address.

“I have not received a single item by post since moving into Hiland Woods in Action Area II over a year ago. I do not even know which post office is supposed to cater to us. There is confusion even over the PIN code of our area,” Sumit, who works in an IT park in New Town, told Metro.

Vast stretches of Bengal’s township of failed promises remain beyond the purview of postal services more than five years since apartment owners started moving in, forcing them to rely entirely on their office addresses to receive snail mail.

For those who think snail mail is long dead, the envelope or parcel with a Mahatma Gandhi stamp on it is still an indispensable part of our lives. Almost all government documents still come by post. Court orders, bank statements and cheque books of nationalised banks, BSNL telephone bills and even university certificates are delivered exclusively by India Post.

In New Town, the problem is not so much the lack of post offices but a shortage of manpower and the old disease of passing the buck rather than the mail. Action Area I has a dedicated post office while Rajarhat and Hatiara are supposed to cater to the rest of the township.

But fortunate is the resident who finds a stamped envelope or packet in the letterbox someday. Many in the township of approximately 15,000 residents don’t even know their PIN code, and not because they haven’t bothered finding out.

“I went to the New Town post office to ask whether my complex near City Centre II was under its jurisdiction. He asked me to go to the Airport post office, which in turn sent me to the Teghoria post office. A courier company will deliver to my address without the PIN code but what about mail sent by post? I am at a loss,” said a sales manager who bought his flat six months ago, unaware of the problems he would face.

A university professor who resides nearby now mentions a relative’s address whenever he needs to receive anything by post.

“A student’s doctoral thesis that I was to evaluate was returned to the sender at Rabindra Bharati University because it could not be delivered to my New Town address. I have to use the postal addresses of relatives living in other parts of the city to receive articles sent to me by post from India and abroad,” he said.

A neighbour waiting for his passport realised that Speedpost returned it to the regional passport office with a message that almost got his application cancelled: “Address doesn’t exist.”

At the New Town post office in Action Area I, the standard explanation for complaints about undelivered letters and parcels is shortage of staff and space.

“We have been asked to operate only in Action Area I, which in itself is a daunting task. The DLF campus with three towers (occupied by around 30 companies, including IBM and Genpact) is so huge that we need one postman to cater to it,” said Naba Kumar Baidya, postal assistant at the New Town post office.

The jurisdiction of the New Town post office, which has been without a postmaster since last November, stretches from the New Town-Salt Lake Sector V border to the Ecospace IT Park. Baidya said the post offices in Hatiara and Rajarhat were supposed to cater to Action Areas II and III.

Postmaster Ananda Mohan Mallik of the Hatiara post office said it was impossible to cover the entire New Town Action Area II with one postman. “The housing estates are spread 8 to 10km from one another.”

Many blame New Town’s haphazard development for the problem.

The clusters of residential buildings coming up in action areas I and II are situated far apart. In Action Area I, which is the most populated, a cluster of 10 buildings called Sunrise Greens is situated at a distance of around 200 metres from the DLF Park. There is another cluster of buildings situated across the main arterial road at a distance of almost 500 metres from Sunrise Greens.

In Action Area II, highrises like Greenwood Sonata and Ujjwala are in proximity to City Centre II. The next cluster of buildings is on Rajarhat Road near Chinar Park, a kilometre away. “I cycle more than 16km a day to cover parts of Action Area II. Even then, I cannot deliver many letters and parcels on time. It takes me more than five hours a day to deliver everything in my beat,” said Biswajit Pal of the Hatiara post office.

Gautam Kumar Jana, the senior superintendent of the eastern post office circle, said there was “nothing new” about the manpower shortage in post offices.

A senior official of Hidco, which is in charge of New Town, summed up the development disaster that the township has become: “Why blame only the post and telegraph department? There is anarchy here. We are unable to provide electricity to many housing complexes because of land disputes, landline telephones are not available at several places and civic amenities are almost non-existent.”